Huntley special education bus aide pleads not guilty to striking child

A former special education bus aide from Huntley Community School District 158 pleaded not guilty Wednesday to allegations she "struck" or "pushed" a 7-year-old student on a school bus in August, authorities said.

Joyce C. McFadden, 75, of Huntley, is charged with four counts of aggravated battery, Class 3 felonies. If convicted in McHenry County court, she faces between two to five years in prison and up to $25,000 in fines.

The charge also is probational, Judge James Cowlin said during McFadden's arraignment.

McFadden's attorney, Edward Donahue, asked for a "speedy trial," which typically means a trial within 150 days of entering a plea.

On Aug. 18, the first week of classes for the new school year, Algonquin police officer Andrew Dykstra, the district's Square Barn Road campus resource officer, responded to an incident involving McFadden and a student from Mackeben Elementary, according to police and court records.

The officer was told McFadden had "been relieved of her duties" pending an investigation by human resources and that the Department of Children and Family Services was being contacted, according to the police report.

He also was told "there was no further concern to the student," according to the report.

Dykstra met with the district transportation director and was told that on the bus route home on Aug. 17 McFadden allegedly "struck the student in the head with an open hand and then a piece of paper," according to the police report.

The director said she learned about the alleged incident after the child's mother called and reported "the bus aide had possibly spoken inappropriate to her child and was instructing her on how to parent," according to the police report.

Dykstra said he viewed a video from the bus and saw McFadden "take her open right hand and tap/slap (the student) on the top of the head."

Dykstra also said this occurred after the student was seen striking another student on the bus, using profanity and pulling on his own and another student's harness, according to the police report.

McFadden, who District 158 said resigned from the district Aug. 22, was seen pushing the child's head down, saying "feet down," striking the child in the head with papers and saying "shut your mouth," according to the police report.

The bus driver appeared to be unaware of the alleged "physical contact" taking place, the officer said.

"He was also extremely lost and constantly asking McFadden for directions," Dykstra wrote in the police report. "He even stopped the bus multiple times to get his bearings."

Notes from a meeting between McFadden and the human resources director were provided to Dykstra and read that McFadden said, "'I did touch (the child's) head, but I did not hit (the child).'"

The DCFS employee who investigated the case said in a report the child "had no physical marks or known emotional issues from ... the incident."

When Dykstra called McFadden to arrange a meeting, she said, "I didn't hit anyone" and that "the papers I had were to block (the child) from upsetting the other students," according to the police report.

The police officer also said McFadden was "adamant" that he watch the video to see "she had not committed any crime."

McFadden is due back in court Dec. 6.

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